All the laws have been passed and all the final rulings have been published. In the spirit of the times, you went out and got yourself an EHR. You did your due diligence and sat through many hours of vendor demonstrations. In the end they all started to blend together, so you talked to friends and colleagues and accepted the Hospital’s offer to pay a big chunk of your EHR costs if you picked the one they wanted you to pick.
Your biller quit in disgust, but other than that the implementation was uneventful and the Hospital folks helped a lot. After several hiccups, your Medicare payments are coming in regularly now and your office is adjusting well to the new software. The documentation templates leave a lot to be desired, but you type well and when you find some free time you may take a stab at customizing them a bit. Here and there you run into bugs and a couple of times the EHR was unavailable for a good two to three hours. Not sure exactly why. Maybe it was the Internet that was unavailable.
Anyway, if all goes according to plan, you will be retiring in 10 years and your much younger partner will be bringing in someone who is probably in Medical School right now. Everything seems under control. But today is different…
Today is January 2nd, 2011 and you are driving to work. Today has to be meaningfully different and your first patient is waiting in Exam Room 1.
Mrs. Kline is a pleasant 68 year old woman, who has been seeing you for ten years or so, for her hypertension (which is well managed), hyperlipidemia and a touch of arthritis. You bring up her chart on your EHR and begin your meaningful use (§ 495.6(d)(7)(i) – Record Demographics – Check). There is a little red sign on the screen saying that Mrs. Kline is overdue for a routine mammogram (§ 495.6(d)(11)(i) – Clinical Decision Support – Check). She says that she got a little postcard from your office the other day (§ 495.6(e)(4)(i) – Patient Reminders – Check) and will be making an appointment soon. You look at the BP recorded by the nurse and also notice that Mrs. Kline gained some weight and her BMI is now well over 30 (§ 495.6(d)(8)(i) – Record Vitals and BMI – Check). You chuckle as you notice that the nurse duly noted that Mrs. Kline does not smoke (§ 495.6(d)(9)(i) – Record Smoking Status – Check). As you listen to Mrs. Kline’s account of her knees “acting up” again and how it is now painful to walk Fluffy in the morning, you glance at her problem list (§ 495.6(d)(3)(i) – Maintain Problem List – Check) and medications (§ 495.6(d)(5)(i) – Maintain Med List – Check). She also mentioned some shortness of breath when walking Fluffy and you proceed to do an examination.
As you look over Mrs. Kline’s slightly swollen knees and check her wrists and elbows too, she tells you about her daughter Ellie and how she is now a third year Dermatology resident. Mrs. Kline is hesitantly wondering if her daughter could peek at her medical records once in a while. Sounds reasonable and you tell her to ask Mary at the front desk to set her up with access to the portal (§ 495.6(d)(12)(i) – Electronic Copy of Medical Records – Check). You explain to her that all her records are on the computer now and even today’s visit summary will be there before she gets home (§ 495.6(d)(13)(i) – Provide Visit Summaries – Check) and (§ 495.6(e)(5)(i) – Timely Access to Medical Records – Check). Her daughter in faraway California should be well informed from now on.
The exam was non eventful and the Lipid panel Mrs. Kline had last week looks good (§ 495.6(e)(2)(i) – Incorporate Lab Results – Check). You proceed to write a new prescription for Celebrex (§ 495.6(d)(1)(i) – CPOE for Meds – Check) and note that she is not allergic to anything (§ 495.6(d)(6)(i) – Maintain Allergy List – Check). The obligatory DDI pops up and you dismiss it as duly noted (§ 495.6(d)(2)(i) – Drug-Drug Interaction – Check). You adjust the BP meds and note that everything is on formulary (§ 495.6(e)(1)(i) – Formulary Check – Check). You ask Mrs. Klein which pharmacy she is using and promptly send all her scripts there (§ 495.6(d)(4)(i) – Electronic Prescribing – Check). On your way out you talk to Mrs. Kline about the need to monitor her blood pressure carefully now that she is on new meds and to call you if anything changes before her next appointment. You say good bye and good luck to her daughter. Mrs. Kline stops by the front desk and Mary sets her up with a portal account, makes an appointment for her and hands her the BP home monitoring education materials you ordered (§ 495.6(e)(6)(i) – Patient Education Materials – Check). Your next patient is in Exam Room 2.
As you walk over to your office, Mary mentions that the IT guy will be coming in later today to fill out some security survey (§ 495.6(d)(15)(i) – Protect Electronic Health Records – Check) and test the export function one more time (§ 495.6(d)(14)(i) – Capability to Exchange Clinical Data – Check) and he is certain that it will work this time. There is a new patient in the freshly cleaned Exam Room 1.
It’s after five o’clock and light snow is falling outside. You saw 20 patients today; some with chronic conditions, some very ill (one had to be admitted) and others with incidental scrapes and viruses, but pretty healthy otherwise. There was nothing unusual about today. On your way home you briefly consider that at this rate you should have plenty of data to report to CMS in 3 months (§ 495.6(d)(10)(i) – Report Quality Measures to CMS – Check) and Mary with the IT guy should figure out the rest when the time comes. That Christmas bonus was well deserved.
This was just one of the 3,653 days until your retirement. The extra three are for leap years.
Congratulations, you are now a Meaningful User of EHR technology.
Margalit Gur-Arie blogs frequently at her website, On Healthcare Technology. She was COO at GenesysMD (Purkinje), an HIT company focusing on web based EHR/PMS and billing services for physicians. Prior to GenesysMD, Margalit was Director of Product Management at Essence/Purkinje and HIT Consultant for SSM Healthcare, a large non-profit hospital organization.